So, what does it takes to be a world class asset manager? Participants at the GRI Europe summit in Paris approached this topic last week in an open, honest and interesting discussion forum. Despite different perspectives and focus points, the conclusion was quite unanimous and can be summarized as follows.
- It‘s a people business. Attract the best, incentivise to align with company and customer goals and treat them well. Retain them and build strong teams that evolve and mature over time. Technical expertise combined with soft skills is a winning blend
- Clear communications. Through both structured and disciplined reporting, but also through direct and clear communication. Listen well to gain a deep understanding of the dynamics of situations and tell the customer what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear. Aim to under promise and over deliver, but don’t oversell.
- Deep understanding of portfolios, markets and sectors. Again, this can only be done with the right people and the skills and experience they bring to the table. Focus on what you do and know best and don’t dilute that focus with too broad perspective. Respect local expertise and bring the right locals partners to the table when situations demand.
- Don’t be self-centric. Internal affairs are important, but should never overshadow the overview and focus on customer needs and market development.
- Proactivity and productivity. Initiate, don’t just react. Move people. Table new ideas. Create opinions.
- Ownership mentality. Treat the assets as they were your own. Have a clear ownership vision and strategic view of the portfolios. After all, this is what you are getting paid for.
- Alignment of interests. In terms of overall performance, risk and timeline. There are simple ways to do this through performance fees and benchmarks, don’t over engineer or complicate. In some cases the best incentive is simply a happy customer that renews his contract. Getting new customers requires many times more effort than retaining current ones.